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Uplifting girls through mentorship

By Nikko Tanui | October 19th 2016
Cheptuiyet Secondary School Principal Zeddy Cheruiyot. She started a mentorship programme to help young girls who are having difficulties pursuing their education. (PHOTO: NIKKO TANUI/ STANDARD)

I have been a mathematics teacher for over 20 years, a maths paper examiner with Kenya National Examination Council and currently a Principal at Cheptuiyet Secondary School.

Teaching is in my blood and my passion is to see the students I am responsible for excel and go on to make something of their lives. It is this that led me to think of a mentorship programme to help young girls who are having difficulties pursuing their education.

The programme we launched in 2014 works by identifying vulnerable class 8 girls who school at Cheptuiyet Primary School. We can only pick eight of these pupils who we then house in a small cubicle at the secondary school.

The girls we pick are usually those grappling with a myriad of problems; are either orphans or neglected children belonging to mentally unhealthy or alcoholic parents.

Since we can only assist a very small number of pupils, we leave the task of vetting and interviewing these girls to the chiefs, primary school headmasters and members of the clergy. These are the people best placed to identify the neediest girls who then benefit from our unique programme.

Once a girl is picked to join the mentorship programme, she benefits from free lessons mathematics, English and Kiswahili lessons from the teachers during preps time. She also has access to the high school computer laboratory during their evening studies.

The 532 senior girls in secondary school also embrace their young primary school sisters and even allow them to be the first to queue for tea and meals served at the dining hall.

We also have a system where the senior girls ‘mother’ their juniors. The system works very well for the young girls since they have ‘mothers’ in secondary school who look after them and they in-turn look up to them.

The programme has transformed these young girls. Not only does interacting with their older sisters gave them confidence and something to work towards, the conducive learning environment leads to better grades.

One of the first things we note, once the girls come onboard, is a rapidly improving performance with the girls now scoring at least 300 marks and above in their continuous assessment examinations.

The idea to assist and mentor the vulnerable pupils came to me three years ago as a way of reciprocating the immeasurable assistance the local community gave Cheptuyet Secondary School during its construction.

The school was established five years ago under the Economic Stimulus Programme and the local community played an invaluable role. One old man in particular offered free construction, fencing and security services.

As the founding school principal, I found myself raking my mind for an idea of how we could give back to the community and that is how the idea of assisting vulnerable girls in the community was conceived.

The school was officially opened in 2011 and we took in our first batch of girls in 2014. At the time we could only take in three girls and then in 2015 we took in seven.

We are very proud of the girls who passed through the mentorship programme. They are all in secondary school and are scoring B (plus) and above in their class examinations.

As we approach the national examination period, I expect my 134 KCSE candidates to score an aggregate 9.1 mean score.

I believe ‘my’ primary school girls will score over 350 marks in KCPE.

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